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Mar 172015

The subject of personal accountability has come up in several of Joyce’s articles, and I believe that acceptance of that accountability is one of the most intrinsic steps to take in recovery and healing from our relationships with psychopaths, or otherwise toxic people.

First of all, what is accountability, anyway? According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, the short definition of “accountability” is “….the quality or state of being accountable; especially : an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions <public officials lacking accountability> “ I believe the second reference as, “…an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility….” is where I found acceptance for myself, my actions, and my decisions.

Why bring this up, at all? Haven’t we all experienced enough pain, enough guilt, and enough humiliation without having to accept blame for being victimized? Well, that isn’t what “personal accountability” really is. It isn’t assigning blame, nor is it intended to create a sense of shame or guilt. Will there be feelings of shame and guilt? Most likely – but, those feelings will be sorted out in due time to reflect understanding and acceptance and we will not die from those “feelings.” We will process them, reconcile those feelings with the facts, and move on down our personal Healing Paths.

To illustrate this, I’ll use a somewhat tedious example of someone that I know that I’ll call, “Brenda.” Brenda spent her life as an educator at a high-status boarding school teaching children of very, very wealthy people. Brenda has a brother who, from her own descriptions, seemed high in anti-social traits with a general lack of compassion, empathy, etc. Brenda’s sister-in-law is equally shallow, and their two children were raised in a self-absorbed and shallow dysfunction. That’s all that I know about this family from Brenda, though I did have occasion to meet the sister-in-law, and she appeared as shallow and narcissistic as they come.

At some point, Brenda’s niece had been experiencing extreme depression, self-loathing, etc., and committed suicide, to the shock of the entire family. I have no idea whether or not any help was sought for this young woman, but she ended her own life and threw the surviving family members into a state of guilt that was never resolved, from my understanding.

After the suicide of her niece, Brenda literally believed that she had failed to “see” where her niece was headed and, in an attempt to “save” her nephew from the path that he had chosen, she decided to retire from her teaching position at the very posh establishment and purchase an expensive bed and breakfast facility that she intended for her nephew and her to run, as partners, as a successful business. The inn, itself, was already a well-established facility with perennial clientele and is situated in one of the most exclusive communities in the region – summer homes were selling for six million four years ago. So, it would seem that it was a turn-key operation and only needed to be run as it had been in order to continue to generate profit and success for the owners. Well, that wasn’t to be.

The nephew apparently wasn’t as enthusiastic about partnering with his Aunt Brenda, and had no intention of working, under any auspices. In fact, he used the company’s lines of credit to purchase himself trips to Aspen, and other resorts, and spent money that had yet to be generated, much less paid to the lines of credit. In short, the nephew used the business as his own personal cash cow, and it was at about this time that I became acquainted with Brenda .

Brenda spent thousands of her own dollars on an attorney that ratified the business arrangement between her and her nephew – negotiations went on for months until the final agreement only required him to pay back everything that he used on the lines of credit. Of course, his parents were furious that Brenda was making any requirement, whatsoever, but they all maintained an extremely strained relationship with Brenda trying to smooth things over at every available opportunity. A side note on this is that the nephew never paid back a dime to the business and he was never held liable for this, to my knowledge.

Once the nephew was out of the business picture, Brenda began a strenuous campaign to find suitable business partners that would, in due time, purchase the business from her so that she could go on about her life. She settled upon some guy and his girlfriend – the guy claimed the title of “chef,” but had never attended even a culinary class, and watched videos on YouTube and the Food Network to teach himself how to cook like a chef. His girlfriend might have had a degree in business, but I cannot vouch for that, either way. Brenda was in heaven – someone was going to run that business, buy it, and she would be free.

In the interim, another business contract was drawn up (at her expense, of course) that would maintain her as a silent partner with the man and his girlfriend running the establishment as if it were their own until they secured their own business loan to purchase the entire establishment – Brenda was not “allowed” to remain on the premises or to make unannounced visits, as per the contracted agreement. And, she agreed to this clause just to rid herself of the burden and one that I cautioned her against when the subject came up.

So, this arrangement sent Brenda on a nearly 2-year-long vagabond experience where she stayed with one friend, then another, then another, and back and forth until the soon-to-be-new-owners bailed on the business contract and fled the establishment after having been categorically denied every application for a business loan and having driven it further into irrevocable debt. So, Brenda returned to the establishment to find it in shambles, in all ways, and tried to revive it for another year before she was ejected from the property by the mortgage lender.

What’s the point of this entire story? I’m getting to the “accountability” part, here. At no time did Brenda ever say (to me), “I should never have bought this inn. It was a mistake to try to help my nephew and expect him to appreciate my effort.” Not once did Brenda “see” that she had enabled all of these people……her nephew, the new business partners, etc. They were all ungrateful, unappreciative, conniving, selfish, and so forth.

I have no idea how Brenda is faring after this horrific mess finally collapsed. I do know that she received notice that she had 7 days to vacate the establishment and that the bank foreclosed on the property, almost immediately. I have long-ago lost touch with Brenda and I have a strong perception that she would prefer not to communicate with me because I would remind her of her dreadful experiences. Not my problem, and I wish her no ill-will, whatsoever. But, what is dreadfully clear in this recollection is that Brenda could not and WOULD not admit to making a mistake. The last time that I did speak with her, she was bitter, angry, and distraught over this business-gone-to-shiat, and I wish that it were not true, but she really made some serious errors in judgment. Was her nephew a nincompoop? He certainly was. Did she give over her trust to people that she didn’t know and had no intention of meeting their legal obligation? Yes, she did. Is it fair? Of course, it isn’t. Is it kind? No, it is not. Is there some delight to be gained at Brenda’s failures? Absolutely, not! But, Brenda isn’t likely to ever recover from her experiences because she blatantly refused to see where her own personal choices led to multiple disasters.

Personal accountability doesn’t mean that we deserved whatever we experienced. Personal accountability is acknowledging that I made the conscious choice to ignore obvious red flags with regard to toxic and sociopathic people that I allowed into my life. Personal accountability is my individual acknowledgment that I made the choice to do one thing, or another, that resulted in my being victimized by someone when it could have very easily never happened had I simply admitted that I had made some bad choices.
When I finally accepted my own personal accountability for having chosen two (2) very disordered spouses, the “acceptance” allowed me to let go of so much hatred, anger, and regret. So, those things happened, and I made some bad choices. Luckily, I didn’t die from any of them, though I very easily could have! But, I am alive, today, and today is where I start from when I wake up, each morning. I’m not concerned about the next great calamity, nor am I that concerned about my past – my personal accountability and acceptance has allowed me to live in the present, rather than spin that vortex of anxiety over the past and future.

We’re okay. I’m okay. Making mistakes is okay. Being human isn’t a sin. But, refusing to learn from my mistakes might be the sin that I really wish to avoid.


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  7 Responses to “Personal accountability Written by blogger TRUTHSPEAK

  1. Truthy, thank you for this great article!

    Your friend “Brenda” is a perfect example of a hard core enabler. While her “intentions” may be good, the bottom line is that she is in a rut trying to “save” the world, and when the world doesn’t appreciate her “saving” them, she becomes the “victim” and yet sees no part of her problems resulting from her enabling as anything she has done, so she continues the pattern.

    Having “been there” (in Brenda’s shoes) myself, I realize that all my “good intentions” were total wastes of my time and that I was the one who had to change and take responsibility for my own decisions.

    I guess I’ll always want to “help others” but now I do it in a way that is not an enabling one. That was difficult for me to see MY part in people taking advantage of me, because I LET THEM do so. Sure it was not “right” that they did so, but at the same time, I realized FINALLY that I was only enabling them, not “helping” them.

    Accepting responsibility for our own parts in our abuse is important in our healing journey.

    I wanted to “save” Patrick from the consequences of his behaviors from the time he first started stealing, I didn’t want him to wreck his life with a criminal record, but he was determined to do what he wanted to do in spite of anything I was able to do “for” him. Even after he murdered Jessica I wanted to “save” him, give him a life on the outside when he finally did get parole.

    It was painful to realize that my efforts were wasted, that he was never going to change, that he was a full fledged psychopath, but accepting that truth has enabled me to finally break free from the desire to enable others, by doing for them what they should be doing for themselves.

  2. LOL the profanity nanny bleeped out the words “h-ard” “c-ore” before enabler. LOL

    • Joyce………LMAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, I sent Brenda a birthday wish, and I haven’t heard back from her, so I am not going to BEG her to accept my sincere good wishes for her.

      My mother often told me, “A good deed never goes unpunished.” I think this is the core of enabling – the “intent” that Brenda had was to “save” her nephew, and it just isn’t within her power or control to do that.

      I did the same things with every disordered person that I’ve known, too. Until recently. I have just begun to understand and “feel” okay about looking after myself, FIRST, and actually walking away from toxic people. Whether they are full-blown psychopaths, or simply toxic narcissists, I need MY energies for my own health and well-being.

      h-ard c-ore………….(snort) LOL!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Yea, I laughed at the profanity nanny over that one too. almost snorted my coffee this morning!

    It isn’t easy to break the “habit” of enabling when we have been trained from birth that this is our DUTY. We didn’t know any better when this was pounded into our heads as young children. It is my family’s curse! Those that aren’t psychopaths are enablers. The pair go together like bread and butter or PB and Jelly. Without the enablers the psychopaths and other mooches wouldn’t have anyone to prey off of.

    By taking accountability for our OWN PART in allowing this, participating in this, we can STOP that behavior and stop enabling others. Makes for a drama free life, and believe me that’s fun!

    • OH, Joyce, you are so spot-on, here: standing accountable actually has LIBERATED ME from “feeling” responsible for the choices, actions, and behaviors of other people. I enabled because it was (in MY mind) easier than being alone or shunned. LMAO!!!!! As if I wasn’t alone, anyway? But, that was the codependency and childhood dysfunction whispering at me, even in my sleep, that I was “NOT GOOD ENOUGH” to simply walk away, cut someone loose, or NOT befriend every person who was just as needy as I was!

      Drama-free………………yes. Drama-free is not only fun, but it’s peaceful. Life is going to happen – things over which I have NO control are going to happen (like the deer that ran into my car, 2 weeks ago). In my previous life, Life’s events were directed AT ME to punish me for simply being alive!!! Yes, oh, I was THE TARGET of the Universe – I was THE punching bag, whipping post, scapegoat, martyr…….you name it. Now, I am none of those things – not one of them. Life is happening around me, all of the time, and it is a far, far more peaceful and balanced approach than the previous one.


      • I also wanted to add something about “resentment.” I experienced a shiat-ton of resentment towards Flo and her husband – they are obscenely wealthy, think NOTHING of spending $200 on an order of free-trade, organic K-cups of coffee, etc……and, they hired Bob and me to work for them at barely above minimum wages. Sure, it was under-the-table and I desperately needed the income, but I began to “feel” as if I were slave-labor. And, I was. I did the kind of work that migrant workers do, and I was extremely ill while I was doing it.

        Why the resentment? Well, Flo had beliefs that I should have been able to live the way that she and her husband did. She believed that I should have been able to afford paying for a CSA (community supported agriculture) program that requires a certain sum of money (usually around $500) to be paid, up front, to a local farmer to share in their harvest. Well……..I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to live on $600 a month, and Flo and her husband bought a CSA membership for Bob and me, and we were to work it off.

        I did “agreed” to these things because I was desperate. And, in retrospect, the CSA shares that I received weren’t all THAT much better. I had no self-confidence or self-worth, at that time. So, my belief was that I had DESERVED to be taken down about 107 notches to the level of poverty that I was in.

        Now, having typed all of that, I’ve begun to recognize my own personal behavioral issues that got me into poverty to begin with – allowing my total trust in someone other than myself, for one. LMAO!!! But, also looking for someone to “save” or “rescue” me, JUST as I mentioned in the response, above. Talking to that gal so frequently gave me SO much insight into my own behaviors, that I really appreciate the experiences because I began to clearly “see” where I was just as responsible for choosing (or, allowing) really shiatty people into my life under absolutely FOOLISH beliefs that THEY were going to care. Same went forth with Flo. She has never experienced poverty on the level that I have, particularly with an emotionally and functionally disabled offspring that is pretty much dependent upon her to see to their needs. SO…………I came to the decision to keep the relationship with Flo as one of strictly business. She isn’t really my “friend,” because she is totally oblivious (and, possibly, uncaring) to MY personal situation.

        And……………it’s OKAY if someone doesn’t care about me. At long last, I have come to the point where it’s okay and that I’m not FLAWED or BROKEN or UNWORTHY – it’s just people being people. Some folks are going to “like” me, and others won’t. It’s not personal. It’s just the way it is, and I am not obligated to MAKE everyone “like” me, anymore.

        Yes, indeedy………..it is an absolute relief to take personal accountability, now. 😀

  4. You know, Truthy, just as I believe there are people who are born with the Psychopathic DNA and something (or nothing) in their environment pushes them over the edge into full on PD, and all levels in between…but I also believe that there are those of us with “victim” DNA what is also acted on by environment (or not) and we are prime targets for this victimization.

    If you look at most really dysfunctional families, there are some “games” where the Drama Triad Victim-rescueer-persecutor is played…but also many psychopaths are in relationships with pure beaten down victims. And just as we know that there is DNA that tends toward becoming an abuser, there is also I think, from studies I have read, DNA that tends to make the holder liable to become a victim.

    Since children born in a dysfunctional relationship have the chance of either or both of these genes and most likely grow up in a very dysfunctional environment as well, BINGO! you have the ingredients to cook up either a full on victim or a full on abuser.

    I noticed yesterday that one of my two yearling heifer calves I have up in a corral near my house has started pushing the other one out of the feed pan they have shared for over 6 months. So I had to put another pan in there so each of them can have her own….so then the bossy heifer realizes the other heifer has a pan and of course IT MUST BE BETTER, so she goes and runs her off of that so they play “ring around the rosey” with the feed pans with the dominant one pushing her sister out of the way.

    Many “herd” animals (and humans are “herd animals” needing our own kind near by) have a definite “pecking order” in that herd with more dominant ones bossing around the less dominant ones. Usually, though, this is not a seriously abusive domination though, because if it were the species would die out to the last dominant survivor. But the dominant animals do get more mates, more or better food,etc so have a better chance of spreading their genetic make up. However, these genes are not DESTINY after all, as environment as well as the genes of the dominant individual’s mate all come in to play to keep a balance.

    If my theory is valid at all, I can see all that dynamic of abuser and victims playing out in my family going back generations, with generally male psychopaths, but I firmly believe that my paternal grandmother was a full on psychopath, as was her father. Yet, both were “successful” psychopaths, he a Methodist missionary and she a physician. Yet the stories of their exploits would fill a large volume! He a bigamist and she a greedy shrew.

    Truthy, I’m well familiar with your story of your “employment” for several dollars below minimum wage, and you and I both can look back on this NOW and almost laugh, but at the time in your desperation and poverty after your ex husband stole your retirement money by fraud and forged checks, I also see just how VULNERABLE you were.

    I look back my own divorce where Ii was also left in utter poverty with a kid on each hip, and I can definitely identify with your PTSD state. I can see in retrospect that I also was in a state of PTSD at that time. I hardly even remember the first 6 months after he left us, homeless and destitute. I too lived on $445 a month child support ( which was a lot more then than it would be NOW) and worked cleaning houses for “rich folks” with a friend of mine, and gardening, and milking goats, butchering our own meat,e tc. but I can also see that even though the start of that “adventure” (an adventure is defined as THE RESULTS OF POOR PLANNING LOL) was terrible and painful I did gain some strength and eventually finish up my APN degree and certification and have an avenue to support both myself and my children.

    But I didn’t gain enough insight to prevent my enabling of Patrick from the time he was 15 or so…so again I was driven to the brink of “insanity” by my OWN CHOICES to enable him and others as well.

    Okay, so if my theory is right, there is a genetic predisposition to being a “victim” of other more dominant individuals, as well as the environmental training I got as a member of a dysfunctional family (a family I did NOT realize was dysfunctional) so I kept on allowing Patrick and others to victimize me.

    Now I realize I ALLOWED this just as my Red heifer lets her sister push her around rather than fighting back. The two of them will always remain dominant and submissive now that the pattern is established, but they won’t kill one another, except for bulls fighting, cattle don’t do that.

    But hopefully I am a bit smarter than the cattle and can use my BRAIN to stop myself from being victimized in the future, by recognizing abusers for what they are and getting them out of my life. Protecting myself, and not just submitting to whatever treatment they desire to dish out. Whether it is a “friend” who borrows $5 bucks and never pays it back, or someone who wants to steal from me or verbally or physically abuse me.

    Yep, personal accountability is what allows us to live a healthy and drama free life.

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